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Big Idea Award

During the 2019-20 academic year, the Stamps School of Art & Design, with generous support from the Stamps Family, friends, and other supporters in the community, launched the Big Idea Award in memory of alumna Penny W. Stamps (1944-2018).

The award provides one Stamps senior $25,000 to help launch a major, ambitious project after graduation. The winner will be announced at the Stamps Commencement Ceremony. A committee of five external reviewers nominated by Stamps faculty and representing a wide range of expertise will determine the winner.

“What’s your big idea?” Penny Stamps asked graduates in her April 2018 commencement speech. “What are you willing to spend your moral capital, your intellectual capital, your sweat equity in pursuing outside the walls of the University of Michigan? You have your artistic skills — now develop your ideas, your big idea,” she said. “Imagination has no limits.”

The Big Idea Award aims to motivate students to develop ambitious aspirations that reflect the values of a Stamps education; accelerate progress toward achieving those aspirations; and encourage students to rise to the challenge put forth by Penny W. Stamps. 

Start your application →

References are due no later than Friday, February 7, 2020. 

As part of the application process, students will request up to two references - one reference from a Stamps faculty member is required. SlideRoom will email the referrers/faculty member(s) with a form for completion by Friday, February 7, 2020 at 11:59 pm.

2020 External Review Panel


  • Any Stamps undergraduate senior in good academic standing and graduating in December, May, or August of the academic year in which they apply, as established by an academic audit by the SWAPC staff. 
  • The award recipient must graduate by August of the academic year they apply. 
  • Applicants may be of any citizenship.

Criteria for Award 

Applicants will be evaluated on their ability to clearly and convincingly articulate the following via the application process: 

  • A singular, focused, and ambitious Big Idea 
  • A commitment to spend their moral and intellectual capital to their Big Idea
  • A commitment to pursue the Big Idea after graduation 

Additionally, students will need to provide evidence of being able to successfully execute their Big Idea. Items to consider include: 

  • Experience, skills, and preparation relevant to achieving the Big Idea 
  • Ability to gather needed resources
  • Feasibility of the proposed activities


  • Jan 31, 2020: Application submission deadline
  • Feb 7, 2020: Reference submission deadline
  • April 1, 2020: Awardee notified
  • Apr 15, 2020: Unsuccessful applicants notified
  • May 2, 2020: Award announced and presented at commencement


Please contact Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Professor Brad Smith at brdsmith@umich.edu.